Team Toyota lost its entire inventory in Baton Rouge, according to Will Green of the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association. But the store was up and running with new inventory this week, according to its Facebook page. Photo credit: Team Toyota
Four dealerships bore the brunt of flood damage in Louisiana last week, which destroyed entire inventories in some cases, the presidents of the Louisiana and national dealers associations said.
Will Green, president of the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association, said the hardest-hit dealerships included Team Toyota in Baton Rogue and All Star Automotive’s Ford and Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram stores in Denham Springs and the Kia East store in Baton Rouge. Team Toyota lost its entire inventory, but it’s still unclear if the All Star stores had the same fate.
“The reality is, we lot millions of dollars in inventory and our employees lost everything they had,” Green said. “We’re all trying to band together and put their resources back together but they’re not full staff yet.”
National Automobile Dealers Association President Peter Welch said earlier this week that the small number of dealerships that were flooded didn’t have any inventory other than flooded vehicles sitting and waiting for insurance adjustors to evaluate. Welch visited the area Monday and Tuesday and spent time at some of the affected dealerships.
“They have people on the phones calling around the country trying to buy inventory and on the phone with the factory,” Welch said. “You’re talking about millions of dollars of inventory.”
Rebuilding stores, inventory
All Star Automotive Group CEO Matt McKay said his Ford and Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram stores hurt by the flood waters have reopened. Business at the Kia East store, however, moved to his other Kia store about six miles south and remains there, he said.
As far as building repairs, McKay said small cosmetic fixes and sheetrock replacement are now nearly 80 percent complete for the three stores. McKay said he doesn’t have solid numbers for lost inventory. He did note that in the “scheme of total inventory,” the three stores are small compared to some of the other dealerships in his 11-store group.
McKay said he’s been in the business for a long time and has made some friends. So when news spread that McKay’s stores had flooded, other dealerships, which are often the competition, called to ask if they could offer some inventory to replace the vehicles he lost.
“It could’ve been a lot worse,” McKay said, adding that his stores lost no employees nor their family members.
Team Toyota didn’t immediately return requests for comment. The dealership’s Facebook page reported it is “now open for business” this week with new inventory.
Enterprise sends vehicles
LADA’s Green pointed out the conundrum of how the communities hit the hardest have many local residents who need access to vehicles while their neighborhood dealerships replenish their own stock.
“As we get back into the workweek, people [who lost vehicles] need to get back to work, and the most natural place to go is the dealership around the corner,” Green said.
State Farm Insurance reported 17,200 flooding-related auto claims, according to a spokesman. As dealerships in hard-hit areas receive vehicles and repair their own stores, Enterprise Rent-A-Car said Monday it sent 3,500 rental vehicles into the flooded regions of Louisiana.
Enterprise Holdings Inc., which owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car, has an “Emergency Action Plan” so southern Louisiana offices can efficiently communicate with other branch offices on how many vehicles, as well as which models, are needed in emergency situations. Enterprise reserved SUVs and pickups at Enterprise locations in New Orleans so responders and rapid-response teams and agencies could pick up vehicles and go to the flooded areas of Baton Rogue.
“We are coordinating with operations in neighboring states and shipping rental vehicles into Southern Louisiana as quickly as possible,” Mike Edwards, vice president of Enterprise Holdings Inc., said in statement. “We also are in direct contact with relief agencies so vehicles are ready and waiting for them to fan out across the affected parishes.”
President Barack Obama visited Baton Rogue on Tuesday afternoon, but not before he received some criticism for staying on vacation and not immediately visiting the area to bring more attention to the floods.
The Advocate, a daily newspaper out of Baton Rouge, wrote before Obama’s visit, “We’ve seen this story before in Louisiana, and we don’t deserve a sequel,” comparing Obama’s vacation to former President George W. Bush’s apparent neglect after Hurricane Katrina during his own vacation.
Obama said in a speech during his visit that the effects of the flooding would be long term and require long-term attention: “Sometimes, once the floodwaters pass, people’s attention spans pass. This is not a one-off. This is not a photo op issue. This is how do you make sure that a month from now, three months from now, six months from now, people still are getting the help that they need?”
Amy Wilson contributed to this story.